There's a new type of Sunday-night dread, and it has nothing to do with returning to work the next day. It happens--cue the Jaws music--when you step on the scale after a weekend of indulgence, only to discover you've gained three pounds in two days.
Been there? You're not alone. A study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing found that adults scarf down, on average, 419 extra calories each weekend.
"We have more social events that include food and drinks, we're less structured about our mealtimes, and we give ourselves leeway to eat more," says Kathy McManus, director of the department of nutrition at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
That said, who wants to spend their downtime counting every single calorie? Here's the compromise: Use this advice to strategically navigate common diet dilemmas so you can loosen up this weekend without needing to loosen your belt.
Weekend Wrecker: Happy Hour
"Between the drinks and bar food, you could put away 1,000 calories at happy hour," says Susan Bowerman, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. "Alcohol stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, so you end up grabbing whatever is around--usually a minefield of chicken wings and nachos."
Decide how many drinks you'll have ahead of time, and save a bottle cap, lime wedge, or swizzle stick from each. Studies have found that people tend to consume less when they have a physical reminder of how much they've already had. Anything served in a bottle will help you avoid bartender overpours, but it's still advisable to familiarize yourself with proper portions (five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer) by measuring them at home, says Bowerman. Most wines and light beers have about 100 to 125 calories per serving; if you want something stronger, try a Manhattan (130 calories), mojito (150), or vodka tonic (170).
As for food, there's a good reason not to belly up to the bar: You'll be less tempted by the bowls of free nuts and chips--and the smell of greasy appetizers as they come out of the kitchen--when you sit at a table or booth in the back. If you have to order something, your best options, says McManus, are shrimp cocktail (153 calories for 12 shrimp with a quarter cup of cocktail sauce), steamed mussels (around 150 calories for 12), or a shared light-cheese pizza.
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